The beauty of Gerry McAuliffe is tricky to describe. Words don’t do justice to it, because there is a spirit that animated Gerry that was beyond words.
I got to know Gerry in the later part of her life. Towards the beginning of my time here in Chicago, I had known Gerry was amongst the first people involved in the first L’Arche community in Trosly, that she was part of L’Arche Chicago (she helped get it started and helped nourish it), and I knew she lived a bit outside of Chicago, so I got to see her in community at sporadic times. Each time, though, there was something about Gerry that made it easy to gravitate towards her.
Gerry had an elegance of spirit that brought grace to the relationships and places she went to. She had a genuine care towards people that was solid and grounded. It was neither saccharine nor stiff, but felt authentic, wise, and honest.
I felt valued by Gerry. Through time our relationship grew and we became friends in the sense of sharing the mission of L’Arche and valuing each other.
In the last period of her life I was in touch with her primarily via phone and, in the last weeks, Sr. Maria and I went to visit Gerry at the hospital. She was very frail and felt a lot of joy in talking about L’Arche with us. There was a zeal about L’Arche that she carried within her. At the hospital, she mentioned that she had discovered two arms: the arm of recovery and the arm of prayer. I still remember that. With her words, through her tired lips, she was not just conveying information, but she was opening a world.
A few days before her passing I held a retreat for accompaniers of L’Arche Chicago. Gerry herself was an accompanier in different ways, and she was glad to hear of the retreat and told me she’d be praying for us, as we prayed for her. It was a snowy Sunday, a few people couldn’t make it to the retreat, but her closeness in spirit was a great encouragement for the retreat to happen. Gerry was with us.
One time I called her at the hospital and, not sure if she’d recognize me, I mentioned by name that it was me calling. She said something along the lines of, “Oh I know, you have a very distinct voice.” Dare I say that she might recognize the distinct voice of quite a few people, because she cared.
I am honored to have experienced the beauty of Gerry. Our community has been blessed by her. I feel hopeful in knowing that her beauty shall not pass.